Foreign newborns now automatically qualify for Taiwan's health insurance

New law allowing babies born to foreigners to automatically qualify for health insurance has gone into effect

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- An amendment to the National Health Insurance Act went into effect on Dec. 1 which will allow newborn children of foreigners legally residing in Taiwan to be automatically eligible for universal health care coverage, rather than wait for six months, as was previously the case, reported CNA

Under Article 9 Paragraph 3 of the new amendment, babies born in Taiwan to foreigners who are employed and hold residence permits in Taiwan will automatically receive health insurance on the day of their birth.

The old law required newborn children of foreign residents in Taiwan to wait for six month before they were eligible for National Health Insurance (NIH). Such a long gap before a newborn child becomes eligible for health insurance during such a critical phase in their new life, had deterred many foreign professionals from having children in Taiwan or settling in Taiwan long-term to have children out of fear of endangering the health of their offspring.  

In an interview with CNA, Lu Li-yu (盧麗玉) from the Ministry of Health and Welfare said that the new law is expected to help 700 to 800 additional babies qualify for health insurance per year, regardless of whether their parents are white- or blue-collar workers, as long as they are legally residing in Taiwan.

Kuo Li-kai (郭立凱), a representative for the non-profit group Home Harmony Association, told CNA reporters that before this law was enacted, during that first six months without insurance, parents would spend on average NT$3,000 (US$100) on post natal checkups. However, if their child required intensive care, this number could rise to NT$1 million (US$33,000) for just two to three months of treatment. 

Kuo said that migrant workers' average monthly salary of NT$20,000 is nowhere near enough to cover the expenses of post natal care, after brokers fees and living expenses are subtracted. As a consequence, migrant workers would avoid taking their child to the doctor, often resulting in preventable ailments. 

Employers would also stipulate in their contract that migrant workers who became pregnant would be repatriated immediately. As a result, some pregnant workers out of fear of forced repatriation before being able to repay their loans with brokers, would flee their employers. 

Kuo said, "Children do not have a say in where they are born," and therefore healthcare should be provided to both parents and children. Kuo said that foreign workers who come to Taiwan should not have to worry about being repatriated when becoming pregnant or that their children will not receive the proper medical care in their first six months of life. 

In response to concerns by some Taiwanese that Chinese might try to take advantage of this new law to have babies in Taiwan to game the system, Ministry of Health and Welfare Insurance Division Chief Huang Tai-ping (黃泰平) said in an interview with CNA that because visitors from China only have travel visas, they are not eligible for NIH, and therefore would not make a trip to Taiwan to give birth.